Unique backgrounds of graduating seniors punctuate commencement celebration

Of Mount Mercy’s 429 graduates who officially became alumni on Saturday, May 17, each has a distinct academic and personal journey. Mount Mercy Magazine editors visited with several outstanding graduates to learn more about their unique backgrounds and experiences — all of which converged during commencement exercises.

For commencement speaker Greg Blythe, a biology major from Cedar Rapids, earning his Bachelor’s degree is only one step in his educational journey. Blythe urged his classmates to continue lifelong learning, noting that his “experiences at Mount Mercy have ingrained in me a passion for learning and prepared me to take the next step in my lifelong education.” In the fall Blythe will enroll at Des Moines University for medical school, seeking to fulfill his personal dream of practicing medicine. He is one of numerous Mount Mercy graduates who will pursue advanced degrees in the coming academic year.

“If I could do it all over again, I would definitely come back to Mount Mercy,” says graduating senior Mary Jo Nie, an accounting and management major from Jesup, Iowa. “I knew by my junior year of high school that Mount Mercy was the place for me and I still have not changed my mind. Mount Mercy has that close-knit family atmosphere that is so welcoming and makes you feel at home.” Nie, president of the senior class, received the The Sister Immaculata Business Award at Honors Convocation, recognizing her academic success within the Business Division. Nie was also named to “Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities” and was presented with the Co-Curricular Award. Nie will join Rockwell Collins following graduation, where she previously held an internship.

When Leslie Moen, a graduate of the Advance program, walked across the stage at the U.S. Cellular Center, she had a built-in cheering section. Moen’s husband and three children were in the crowd, as were her parents, who flew in from Alaska to mark the special occasion. “I’m graduating 20 years after I first started[college],” says Moen, who was determined to get her degree. She began the Advance program’s adult accelerated classes in January 2005 with a focus on a degree in accounting. Moen took a full load of classes, all while working more than 60 hours per week on the overnight shift at General Mills, and helping to raise her children with her firefighter husband. Moen notes that she likely would have opted not to participate in the formal commencement ceremony if it weren’t for her eight-year-old daughter. “I want her to see that I finished college, have her watch me graduate, and know that she can do it too,” says Moen.

Mount Mercy faculty and staff members take great pride in the diverse paths its graduates have taken in order to earn their degrees, and the way in which the institution has evolved to meet the changing needs of its students.

“What strikes me as most unique about Mount Mercy is that we have several different student populations living and learning on our campus,” says Scot Reisinger, interim vice president for enrollment and student services. “The perspectives that our traditional age, transfer, graduate, and adult accelerated students share with one another in the classroom and on  campus make for a distinct and more vibrant student environment.”

“Mount Mercy has evolved into a complex institution, which was celebrated during our commencement exercises,” says Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs John P. Marsden. “We are an undergraduate college offering majors to traditional and transfer students as well as accelerated programs for working adults. More recently, we have introduced graduate programs in education and business. Our versatile faculty has years of experience working with traditional students, and they also have experience with non-traditional students in our PREP (education) and Advance programs. All of this has helped prepare the faculty for their work with graduate students.”